Doha, Team Qatar’s medals quest at the maiden edition of the ANOC World Beach Games Qatar 2019 got off to a flying start with the men’s handball team beating four-time European champions Croatia 2-1, after a penalty shootout, in the first match of the preliminary rounds of Group B on Friday.
The match had ended in a stalemate in regulation time with Croatia, the runner-up at the 2018 Beach Handball World Championships, taking the first period (21-16) while Team Qatar bounced back to win the second in a nail-biting (17-16) finish. The resulting penalty shootout ended 9-6 in favour of Team Qatar with the heroic saves of goalkeepers Rasheed Yusuff and Ali Garba proving the difference between the almost evenly-matched teams.
The first period of the highly enthralling encounter had the teeming Qatari fans on the edge of their seats, for the most parts, with its mixture of highs and lows as the Qatari team surrendered their early lead only to end up losing the period in a devastating manner. Team Qatar, who are the continental champions, started the match in a phenomenal manner, racing to a 10-2 lead within three minutes of play only for them to relax and allowed the Croatians to push back and restore parity by the 7th minute.
With the match at levelled points, the confidence of the Croatians received a great boost and they became more daring and determined with much of the praises going the way of goalkeeper Hancic Filip Dominik in particular who stood like a rock of Gibraltar, repelling all the attacks of the advancing Qatari team.
With the pressure building against Team Qatar, it was therefore not surprising when right wing Hani Kakhi got a suspension for a foul play with less than 80 seconds to go while his teammate Mohammed Hassan followed suit a minute later.
The second period witnessed Team Qatar paying the Croatians back in their own coin as a quick succession of goals in the dying minutes saw the hosts obliterating a six points deficit to finish the period as winners and thereby taking the match into the penalty tie-breaker where they eventually emerged victorious.
The match was quite tough but we are happy to emerge winners at the end. The Croatian team really gave us a scare but we stood our ground and showed the stuff we are made off. We played against a very tough and experienced opponent but this is a good start for us and I believe it is a sign of good things to come. We are targeting a podium finish at this competition and we are ready to give it all it takes to ensure that. Our approach is to focus on each match as it comes and to give our best. We hope at the end of the day, we will be able to make our country proud,” said Team Qatar’s Hassan Mohammed at the end of the match.
In their second match yesterday, Team Qatar defeated Hungary 2-1.
Source: Qatar Olympic Committee